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FBI 9/11 COVERUP 

Is a 9/11 Attack Facilitator 
Alive and Well in London? 

Thursday, February 23, 2012 
Abulaziz al-Hijji in Florida 

A Saudi businessman suspected of being involved in the 
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is now living in London, 
where he works for the Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco. 

Abdulaziz al-Hijji and his wife, Anoud, were living in the gated 
community of Prestancia near Sarasota, Florida, in 2001, when 
they abruptly left the country only two weeks before the attacks. 
The couple left behind three cars and a home filled with 
furniture, food and personal mail, as well as a private safe found 
wide open. 

On tip from a local security guard and a neighbor, and based 

upon photos of the license plates of cars that entered the community gates, federal agents raided 
the home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) determined that the residence may have 
been visited by some of the 9/1 1 hijackers, including leader Mohamed Atta, and that phone calls 
may have been exchanged between the terrorists and the al-Hijjis. Two of the 9/1 1 pilots trained 
at Venice Airport 14 miles from Prestancia. 

But the FBI later cleared the al-Hijjis of any involvement in the plot and al-Hijji has denied any 
connection. 

Former Florida Senator Bob Graham, who was chairman of the Senate intelligence committee at 
the time, has questioned the FBI's investigation of the al-Hijjis, claiming the bureau was not as 
thorough in its probe as federal agents claimed and that the FBI has continued to withhold 
information related to the Prestancia house. 

-Noel Brinkerhoff 




London-Based Oil Executive Linked to 

9/11 Hijackers 



A Saudi Arabian accused of associating with several of the September 11 
hijackers and who disappeared from his home in the United States a few weeks 
before the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, is in London 
working for his country's state oil company. 




From left: hijack pilots Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah were all said to have 
visited the home in Sarasota while learning to fly at nearby Venice Airport Photo: GETTY 

By Anthony Summers, Neil Tweedie and Dan Christensen in Miami 



7:30AM GMT 18 Feb 2012 

Abdulaziz al-Hijji and his wife Anoud left three cars at their luxurious home in a 

gated community in Sarasota, Florida — one of them new — and flew to Saudi Arabia in 



August 2001 . The refrigerator was full of food; furniture and clothing were left behind; 
and the swimming pool water was still circulating. 

Security records of cars passing through a checkpoint at the Prestancia gated 
community indicated that Mr al-Hijji's home, 4224 Escondito Circle, had been visited a 
number of times by Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 

19-strong hijack team, who piloted American Airlines Flight 1 1 into the North Tower 
of the World Trade Centre in 2001 . 

The logs also indicated that Marwan Al-Shehhi, who crashed United Airlines Flight 
175 into the South Tower, and Ziad Jarrah, who was at the controls of United Airlines 
Flight 93 when it crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, had visited the house. 

All three men had trained to fly at Venice Airport, which is 19 miles from 
Sarasota. 

A US counter-terrorist agent told The Daily Telegraph: "The registration 
numbers of vehicles that had passed through the Prestancia community's north 
gate in the months before 9/11, coupled with the identification documents shown 
by incoming drivers on request, showed that Mohamed Atta and several of his 
fellow hijackers, and another Saudi suspect still at large, had visited 4224 
Escondito Circle." 

The [other] suspect was Adnan Shukrijumah, an al-Qaeda operative who is on 
the FBI's Most Wanted list, with a $5 million bounty on his head. .A decade after 
the world's worst terrorist attack, which claimed the lives of 3,000 people, Mr al-Hijji is 
resident in London, working for the European subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, Saudi 
Arabia's state oil company. Described as a career counsellor, he is based in the offices 
of Aramco Overseas Company UK Limited and lives in an expensive flat in central 
London. 

In email correspondence with the Telegraph, Mr al-Hijji strongly denied any 
involvement in the plot, writing: "I have neither relation nor association with any of those 
bad people/criminals and the awful crime they did. 9/1 1 is a crime against the USA and 
all humankind and I'm very saddened and oppressed by these false allegations. 

"I love the USA. My kids were born there, I went to college and university there, I 
spent a good portion of my life there and I love it." 



Mr al-Hijji's account is supported by the FBI, which has stated: "At no time did the 
FBI develop evidence that connected the family members to any of the 9/1 1 hijackers ... 
and there was no connection found to the 9/1 1 plot." 

Bob Graham, a former US senator who, in addition to co-chairing the 
congressional inquiry into 9/1 1 , was chairman of the US senate intelligence 
committee at the time, disputes the FBI denials. He has long believed that there 
was Saudi support for the 19 terrorists, 15 of whom were subjects of the kingdom. He 
cites two secret documents to which he has recently had access. 

The first document, Graham says, is "not consistent with the public statements of 
the FBI that there was no connection between the 9/1 1 hijackers and the Saudis at the 
Sarasota home. Both documents indicate that the investigation was not the robust 
inquiry claimed by the FBI." 

Mr al-Hijji, 38, moved with his family to Britain in 2003, setting up home in a rented 
four-bedroom detached house in the Southampton suburb of Totton. His stay there 
appears to have been uneventful. 

The al-Hijjis' abrupt departure from Sarasota aroused the suspicion of their next- 
door neighbour, Patrick Gallagher. He emailed the FBI within two days of 9/1 1 to report 
the disappearance of the couple and their young children. 

Reports released recently by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement refer to 
the "suspicious manner and timing" of the family's departure. 

One document states: "In mid-August 2001 the above subjects purchased a new 
vehicle and renewed the registration on several other vehicles. On Aug 27 2001 a 
moving truck appeared and moved the subjects out of the house. Left behind were the 
vehicles and numerous personal belongings, including food, medicine, bills, baby 
clothing etc." 

The document goes on to state that Mr al-Hijji and Esam Ghazzawi, his father-in- 
law and the owner of the Escondito Circle house, had been "on the FBI watch list" 
prior to 9/11. 

Mr al-Hijji described the allegations against him as "just cheap talk" and denied 
having abandoned his home in undue haste, explaining: "No, no, no. Absolutely not 
true. We were trying to secure the [Aramco] job. It was a good opportunity." 



He said his wife and children followed him out to Saudi Arabia a few weeks after he 
left. She and his American-born mother-in-law had been questioned by the FBI when 
they returned to the United States to settle the family's affairs. 

But he was not questioned when he returned to America for a two-month 
period in 2005. 



Did FBI Hide 9/11 Info from Congress about 
Saudi Couple in Florida? 

Thursday, September 15, 2011 




Former al-Hiijjii Home in Florida (photo: Trulia.com) 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probed a possible connection between a Saudi family 
living in Florida and the hijackers who carried out the September 1 1 attacks, but never informed 
Congress or the 9/11 Commission about the investigation. 

Uncovered by the news website BrowardBulldog.org , the previously unreported story goes 
something like this: 

Less than two weeks before the 9/1 1 attacks, Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii and his wife, Anoud, who were 
residents of the gated community of Prestancia near Sarasota, abruptly fled their home, leaving 
behind three cars and a home filled with furniture, food and personal mail, as well as a private 



safe left wide open. The home was owned by Anoud's father, Esam Ghazzawi and his American- 
born wife, Deborah. 

Tipped off by the security chief for the gated community, the FBI stormed the home. They 
eventually determined, based upon photos of the license plates of cars that entered the gates, that 
the residence may have been visited by some of the 9/11 hijackers, including leader Mohamed 
Atta, and that phone calls may have been exchanged between the terrorists and the Hiijiis. 

Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission, 
said the FBI never shared details of the investigation with him or others working on the 
special inquiry. Nor did the federal law enforcement agency tell lawmakers on Capitol Hill. 

-Noel Brinkerhoff 



1 



I ONLINE EXTRA: 9/1 1-10 years later 

FBI "Investigated" Another Sarasota Link to 9/11 




Two weeks before 9/11, a Saudi family abruptly vacated their home in Prestancia at 4224 
Escondito Circle. Their action later raised questions about what they might have known. 

STAFF PHOTO /ROBERT ECKHART 
By Zac Anderson & Robert Eckhart 



Newly revealed details from an FBI investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist 
attacks link a Saudi family living in an upscale Sarasota neighborhood to the 
hijackers, who made multiple visits to the Sarasota home before 9/11. 

The Saudi family appear to have fled their home in the gated Palmer Ranch 
community of Prestancia two weeks before Sept. 1 1 , raising suspicions about whether 
they had knowledge of the impending attacks. The family left clothes hanging in closets, 
food in the refrigerator, toys floating in the pool and three cars in the driveway and 
garage. 

Details of the investigation were uncovered by author Anthony Summers and Dan 
Christensen, editor of Browardbulldog.org. Their story, which relied largely on an 
unnamed counterterrorism agent as well as former Prestancia security guard Larry 
Berberich, was published Thursday on Christensen's website and in the Miami Herald. 

The story documents yet another potential connection between Southwest Florida 
and the Sept. 1 1 attacks. 

Three of the four men who piloted planes on Sept. 1 1 attended flight schools in 
Venice and lived there until shortly before the attacks. Two of them, Sept. 1 1 
mastermind Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah, were found to have visited the Saudi 
family in Prestancia based on photos of their license plates taken at the security gate 
and information the men gave gate guards. 

Neighbors did not grow suspicious of the Saudi family until after Sept. 1 1 , when their 
abrupt departure days earlier raised questions. 

At least three Sarasota residents, including a neighbor, a security guard and a real 
estate agent, called the FBI to report the Saudi family's odd behavior. Counterterrorism 
experts later pieced together the family's connection to the hijackers, but by then the 
Saudis had returned to their home country. 

In a Thursday interview with the Herald Tribune, a former neighbor and close friend 
of the Saudi family who visited their house nearly every day for a few years in the mid- 
90s said she always wondered what had become of her old friends. 

Sarasota High School graduate Carla DiBello, 27, said she became close with Anoud 
al-Hiijjii, the young Saudi mother. 



Anoud, who was only 1 8 or 1 9 at the time, treated DiBello like a younger sister and 
DiBello enjoyed playing with the family's young twins, Esam and Hamsa. 

DiBello and Anoud went to movies together, shopped at the mall and took trips to 
Busch Gardens. 

DiBello said Anoud was a heavyset, pious woman who prayed multiple times a day. 
But in many ways she and her husband, Abdulazzi, were very Westernized. She 
sported a 10-carat, heart-shaped diamond ring. He liked Polo shirts and expensive 
jeans. They wore designer clothes, drove a Range Rover and a Lexus, loved American 
movies and decorated their home lavishly. 

Abdulazzi often walked next door to visit with DiBello's father, Tom, and drink liquor, 
something Anoud did not approve of. 

"Anoud would make him go pray and be more involved in their culture," Carla DiBello 
said. 

Tom DiBello, an insurance salesman who now lives near Fort Lauderdale, said 
Abdulazzi was affable and outgoing. 

DiBello got the impression that Abdulazzi, who at times said he was a business 
student but also talked about exporting furniture, was coasting on his wife's family 
money. 

Anoud's father, Esam Ghazzawi, is a well-known interior designer and financier in 
Saudi Arabia who owned multiple properties in the United States, including the 
Prestancia home. The family bragged that Ghazzawi had a close relationship with the 
Saudi royal family. 

Carlo DiBello said she met Ghazzawi at least four times and described him as "very 
eccentric." He enjoyed big family dinners and always had a large security detail. 

Once, DiBello was shopping with the family around the time that Ab Roller exercise 
gadgets became popular. 

Ghazzawi "ordered 40 or 50 of them at once and said he wanted them at all of his 
homes and offices around the world," DiBello said. 

Abdulazzi's easy manner did not raise suspicions, but Tom DiBello said in hindsight 
some of their conversations were odd. 



"He felt Americans came to their country to steal their oil and take their money," 
DiBello said. "He said he did not like Americans because of what we did to his country. 
He said, 'How would you like it if we came to your country and did that?' " 

The al-Hiijjii family did not socialize widely and did not belong to Prestancia's posh 
country club or take advantage of the world-class golf course, DiBello said. 

Carla DiBello, who now works in Los Angeles as a television producer for the show 
"Keeping Up With the Kardashians," said she lost touch with the family around 1999 
after she entered high school and moved out of Prestancia. 

House for sale 

Sarasota real estate agent Louise Tessier may have been one of the last local 
residents to have contact with the al-Hiijjii family before they disappeared. 

Tessier sat down with the couple in their family room in May 2001 after they 
contacted her about selling the Prestancia home. 

Anoud told Tessier they wanted to sell the house because a brother was headed to 
college in Tampa. 

Tessier didn't ask too many follow-up questions. 

"We were never on a comfortable footing," she said. "You couldn't talk to them as 
easy as you could with other people." 

After the Sept. 1 1 attacks, Tessier got a tip that the family had abandoned their 
Prestancia home. She tried to contact them by phone and email. She remembers calling 
a phone number in Saudi Arabia but never getting through to the right people. 

When Tessier went to check out the house, she saw that the pool was green and a 
car was parked in the driveway. 

"There was stuff in the house that shouldn't have been left in the house," she said. 
"And I can't remember if I found food in the refrigerator or what but it was just like they 
had abandoned the whole thing." 

She went back to her office and called the FBI. 

"They knew who I meant," Tessier said. "Didn't have any problem getting that through 
to them. It made me feel like they knew what was going on." 



A few months later, Tessier said the FBI called her back and told her that the al- 
Hiijjiis were "cleared." The FBI said that she could go through with the sale, and that the 
federal government would not be seizing the house. 

But Tessier says she had had enough of the family. 

"I just shut down on the whole thing. I didn't want to have anything to do with it." 

What has become of the al-Hiijjii and Ghazzawi families since they fled the United 
States is unclear. 

The Justice Department, the lead agency that investigated the attacks, refused to 
comment, saying it would discuss only information already released. 

The al-Hiijjii and Ghazzawi families could not be reached for comment. The house 
was sold in 2003, records show. 

Inquiry kept secret 

The FBI investigation into the al-Hiijjii and Ghazzawi families was not reported 
to Congress or mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report. 

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who cochaired the bipartisan 
congressional joint inquiry into the attacks, said he should have been told about the 
findings, saying it "opens the door to a new chapter of investigation as to the depth of 
the Saudi role in 9/1 1 .... No information relative to the named people in Sarasota was 
disclosed." 

For Graham, who served as Florida's governor from 1979 to 1987, the connections 
between the hijackers and residents raise questions about whether other Saudi 
nationals in Florida might have known of the impending attacks, which killed nearly 
3,000 people. 

The FBI investigation began the month after 9/1 1 when Larry Berberich, senior 
administrator and security officer of Prestancia, reported that the couple, living with their 
small children at the three-bedroom home at 4224 Escondito Circle, had left in a hurry in 
a white van, probably on Aug. 30. 

They abandoned three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler 
PT Cruiser, in the garage and driveway. 



As an adviser to the Sarasota County sheriff, Berberich was with the group that 
received President George W. Bush during his truncated visit to a Sarasota school on 
the morning of 9/1 1 . He alerted sheriff's deputies. 

Patrick Gallagher, one of the Saudis' neighbors, had become suspicious even earlier, 
and had fired off an email to the FBI on the day of the attacks. Gallagher said law 
enforcement officers arrived and began an investigation, with agents swarming "all over 
the place, in their blue jackets," he recalled. 

Berberich and a senior counterterrorism agent said they were able to get into the 
abandoned house, ultimately finding "there was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of 
the bathrooms ... all the toiletries still in place ... all their clothes hanging in the closet ... 
TVs ... opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house ... the pool running, 
with toys in it." 

The counterterrorism officer, who requested that his name not be disclosed, said 
agents went on to make some troubling discoveries: Phone records and the Prestancia 
gate records linked the house on Escondito Circle to the hijackers. 

The links were not only to Atta and his hijack pilots, the agent said, but to 1 1 other 
terrorist suspects, including Walid al-Shehhri, one of the men who flew with Atta on the 
first plane to strike the World Trade Center. 

But it was the gate records at the Prestancia development that produced the most 
telltale information. 

People who arrived by car had to give their names and the home's address they were 
visiting. Gate staff would sometimes ask to see a driver's license and note the name, 
said Berberich. 

More importantly, he added, the license plates of cars pulling through the gate were 
photographed. 

Atta is known to have used variations of his name, but the license plate of the car he 
owned was on record. 

The vehicle and name information on Atta and Jarrah fit that of drivers entering 
Prestancia on their way to visit the home at Escondito Circle, said Berberich and the 
counterterrorism officer. 



County property records identify the owners of the house at the time as Ghazzawi 
and his American-born wife, Deborah, both with a P.O. box in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, 
and another address in the capital, Riyadh. 

The sudden departure two weeks before 9/1 1 was tracked in detail by the FBI after 
the attacks, the counterterrorism agent said. First they traveled to a Ghazzawi property 
in Arlington, Va., then — with Esam Ghazzawi — to Riyadh by way of Dulles and 
Heathrow airports. 

The counterterrorism agent said that Ghazzawi and al-Hiijjii had been on a watch list 
at the FBI, and that a U.S. agency involved in tracking terrorist funds was interested in 
both men even before 9/1 1 . 

About a year after the family vacated the home, the FBI made an attempt to lure the 
owner back. Scott McKay, a Sarasota lawyer for the Prestancia homeowners' 
association in its claim for unpaid dues on the property, said the FBI tried to get him to 
bring the Saudis back for the transaction. 

"They didn't say you must do this. It was more like, 'But we'd really, really like you to 
make this happen,'" said McKay said. 

McKay said he tried to get the Ghazzawis to sign the necessary documents in 
person, but the ploy failed because the documents could legally be signed elsewhere 
using a notary. Records show Ghazzawi's signature was notarized by the vice consul of 
the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in September 2003. Deborah Ghazzawi's signature was 
notarized in Riverside County, Calif. 

Staff writer Michael Braga contributed to this report, which contains information first 
reported by Browardbulldog.org and the Miami Herald. 

FBI investigated another Sarasota link to 9/1 1 By Zac Anderson and Robert Eckhart 



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Graham: FBI's public statements are in 

conflict with still secret records of 

Sarasota 9/11 probe 



Filed under 9/11, Al Top Story 

By Dan Christensen and Anthony Summers 




Former Senator Bob Graham 



Former Florida Senator Bob Graham has seen two classified FBI documents 
that he says raise new questions about the Bureau's once secret investigation of 
a possible Saudi support operation for the 9/11 hijackers in Sarasota. 

Graham would not disclose the content of the documents, which are marked 
"Secret," but said the information they contain is at odds with the FBI's public 
statements that there was no connection between the hijackers and Saudis then living 
in Sarasota. 

"There are significant inconsistencies between the public statements of the FBI in 
September and what I read in the classified documents," Graham said. 

"One document adds to the evidence that the investigation was not the robust 
inquiry claimed by the FBI," Graham said. "An important investigative lead was not 
pursued and unsubstantiated statements were accepted as truth." 

Whether the 9/1 1 hijackers acted alone, or whether they had support within the 
U.S., remains an unanswered question - one that began to be asked as soon as it 
became known that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. It was underlined when 
Congress's bipartisan Joint Inquiry, which Democrat Graham co-chaired, released its 
public report in July 2003. The final 28 pages, regarding possible foreign support for the 
terrorists, were censored in their entirety — on President George W. Bush's instructions. 

Graham said the two classified FBI documents that he saw, dated 2002 and 2003, 
were prepared by an agent who had participated in the Sarasota investigation. He said 
the agent suggested that another federal agency be asked to join the investigation, but 
that the idea was "rejected." 



Graham attempted in recent weeks to contact the agent, only to find the man had 
been instructed by FBI headquarters not to talk. 

LICENSE PLATES TIED TO HIJACKERS 

The FBI-led investigation a decade ago focused on Abdulaziz al-Hijji and his wife, 
Anoud, who moved out of their home in the upscale, gated community of Prestancia 
and left the country in the weeks before 9/1 1 . The couple, who had lived there since 
about 1995, left behind three cars and numerous personal belongings such as 
furnishings, clothes, medicine and food, according to law enforcement records. A 
concerned neighbor contacted the FBI. 

Analysis of Prestancia gatehouse visitor logs and photographs of license tags 
showed that vehicles driven by several of the future hijackers had visited the al-Hijji 
home at 4224 Escondito Circle, according to a counterterrorism officer - speaking on 
condition of anonymity - and former Prestancia administrator Larry Berberich. 

The home was owned by Mrs. Al-Hijji's father, Esam Ghazzawi, an adviser to Prince 
Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, nephew of King Fahd and a noted racehorse 
owner. Prince Fahd died in July 2001 . 

Al-Hijji, who now lives and works in London, this month called 9/1 1 "a crime against 
the USA and all humankind" and said he was "saddened and oppressed by these false 
allegations." He also said it was "not true" that Mohamed Atta and other 9/1 1 hijackers 
visited him at his Sarasota home. 

The FBI backs up al-Hijji. After initially declining to comment, the Bureau confirmed 
that it did investigate but said it found nothing sinister. Agents, however, have refused to 
answer reporters' specific questions about its investigation or its findings about the 
Prestancia gate records. 

The FBI reiterated its position in a February 7 letter that denied a Freedom of 
Information Act request seeking records from its Sarasota probe. The denial said their 
release "could constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." 

"At no time during the course of its investigation of the attacks, known as the 
PENTTBOM investigation, did the FBI develop credible evidence that connected the 
address at 4224 Escondito Circle, Sarasota, Florida to any of the 9/1 1 hijackers," wrote 
records section chief David M. Hardy. 




Wissam Hammoud 



Newly released Florida Department of Law Enforcement documents, however, state 
that an informant told the FBI in 2004 that al-Hijji had considered Osama bin Laden a 
"hero" and may have known some of the hijackers. The informant, Wissam Hammoud, 
also said al-Hijji once introduced him to Adnan El Shukrijumah, the ex-Broward resident 
and suspected al Qaeda operative on the FBI's Most Wanted list. 

In 2003, the FBI asked Sarasota lawyer Scott McKay, who was involved in the sale 
of the property, to convince al-Hijji's father-in-law, Ghazzawi, to return to the U.S. to 
sign documents. The ploy, intended to get Ghazzawi back for questioning, failed when 
Ghazzawi instead signed the sale documents at the American consulate in Beirut. 

The counterterrorism agent said Ghazzawi and al-Hijji had been on a watch list at 
the FBI. The agent believed that a U.S. agency involved in tracking terrorist funds had 
been interested in both men even before 9/1 1 . 

The FBI interviewed Al-Hijji's wife, Anoud, and her American-born mother, Deborah 
Ghazzawi, when they returned to Sarasota briefly in 2003. The women denied 
involvement with the 9/1 1 terrorists, and said the couple's 2001 return flights to Saudi 
Arabia had been booked well in advance. 

Al-Hijji told London's Daily Telegraph, which worked the story with Broward Bulldog, 
that he returned to the U.S. for two months in 2005 to study in Houston, but was not 
questioned by the FBI. Asked why federal agents had questioned his wife and mother- 
in-law, he said he had "no idea." 

GRAHAM ASKS FOR HELP 

Last September, FBI spokesmen also disputed Graham's assertion that Congress 
was never told about the Sarasota investigation. 

That prompted Graham to ask the FBI for assistance in locating in the National 
Archives the Sarasota-related files that were allegedly turned over to Congress. Instead, 
after what Graham said were two months in which the FBI was "either unwilling or 
unable" to help find the records, the Bureau suddenly turned over two documents to the 
Senate Intelligence Committee, which Graham once headed and where he still has 
access. It is those documents that Graham has said are inconsistent with the FBI 
denials. 

Graham shared this development with the Obama White House, which responded 
by setting up a meeting between Graham and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce. Joyce 
told Graham he "didn't want to talk" about the Sarasota episode. Graham was assured, 
however, that he would shortly be shown material that supported the FBI's denials, and 
a further meeting was arranged with an FBI aide. 

In December, Graham said, the scheduled meeting was abruptly canceled and he 
was told he would be allowed no further access to FBI information about Sarasota. 




9/1 1 Commission co-chairs Lee Hamilton (left)and Thomas Kean 



Graham said the Joint Inquiry was not the only national investigative body kept in 
the dark about Sarasota. He said the co-chairs of the 9/1 1 Commission, Republican 
Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, have told him they also were unaware of it. 

Kean, a former New Jersey governor, told Graham the Commission would have 
"worked it hard," because the hypothesis that the hijackers completed the planning 
alone was "implausible." 

Kean did not return several phone messages seeking comment. But Hamilton, a 
former Indiana congressman, confirmed this month that he learned nothing about the 
Sarasota matter while serving as vice-chair of the 9/1 1 Commission. 

Graham sees the information now emerging about Sarasota as ominously similar to 
discoveries his Inquiry made in California. Leads there indicated that the first two 
hijackers to reach the U.S., Saudis Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, received 
help first from a diplomat at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles and then from another 
Saudi, one of whom helped Mihdhar and Hazmi find an apartment. Multiple sources told 
investigators they believed the latter helpful Saudi had been a Saudi government agent. 

Later, when 9/1 1 Commission staff gained limited access to these individuals in 
Saudi Arabia, the aides' reaction was caustic. One memo described the testimony of 
one of them as "deceptive. ..inconsistent. ..implausible." The testimony of another 
displayed an "utter lack of credibility." 

TWO HIJACKERS LIVED WITH FBI INFORMANT 

Graham is troubled by what he sees as FBI headquarters' persistent apparent effort 
to conceal information, including the fact that Mihdhar and Hazmi lived for months in 
California in the home of a paid FBI informant. Even when that emerged, the FBI denied 
his Inquiry access to the informant. Graham wonders if that was merely because of the 
Bureau's embarrassment, or because the informant knew something that "would be 
even more damaging were it revealed." 

The newly surfaced FDLE documents containing Hammoud's troubling 2004 
information about al-Hijji have reinforced Graham's concerns because they conflict with 
the FBI's public statements. 

Hammoud's statement that al-Hijji introduced him to Broward's own Saudi terror 
suspect, Shukrijumah, is consistent with the report that Prestancia gate logs showed 
Shukrijumah had visited the al-Hijji house - and buttresses longstanding official 



suspicion that he was linked to the hijackers. When Mohamed Atta visited a federal 
immigration office in Miami to discuss a visa problem in May 2001 , a 9/1 1 Commission 
footnote reports, a man who closely resembled Shukrijumah accompanied him. 

Graham sees what he believes to be the suppression of evidence pointing to Saudi 
support for the 9/1 1 hijackers as arising from the perceived advantages to the West, at 
the time and now, of keeping Saudi Arabia happy. 

In late December, the U.S. announced a new $30 billion defense deal with the 
Saudis. 

"This agreement serves to reinforce the strong enduring relationship between the 
United States and Saudi Arabia," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political- 
Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro. "It demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi 
defense capability as a key component to regional security." 

Graham said he was taken aback by that announcement. 

"I think that in the period immediately after 9/1 1 the FBI was under instructions from 
the Bush White House not to discuss anything that could be embarrassing to the 
Saudis," he said. "It is more inexplicable why the Obama administration has been 
reticent to pursue the question of Saudi involvement. For both administrations, there 
was and continues to be an obligation to inform the American people through truthful 
information." 

Dan Christensen is the editor of Broward Bulldog. Anthony Summers is the co-author of "The 
Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/1 1 and Osama bin Laden" published by Ballantine Books. 



FBI found direct ties between 9/11 hijackers 
and Saudis living in Florida; Congress kept in 

dark 

Filed under 9/11 

By Anthony Summers and Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 




United Airlines Flight 175 hits the World Trade Center's south tower 



Just two weeks before the 9/1 1 hijackers slammed into the Pentagon and World 
Trade Center, members of a Saudi family abruptly left their luxury home near Sarasota, 
leaving a brand new car in the driveway, a refrigerator full of food, fruit on the counter — 
and an open safe in the master bedroom. 

In the weeks to follow, law enforcement agents not only discovered the home was 
visited by vehicles used by the hijackers, but phone calls were linked between the home 
and those who carried out the death flights — including leader Mohamed Atta — in 
discoveries never before revealed to the public. 

Ten years after the deadliest attack of terrorism on U.S. soil, new information has 
emerged that shows the FBI found troubling ties between the hijackers and residents in 
the upscale community in southwest Florida, but the investigation wasn't reported 
to Congress or mentioned in the 9/1 1 Commission Report. 

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who cochaired the bipartisan 
congressional Joint Inquiry into the attacks, said he should have been told about the 
findings, saying it "opens the door to a new chapter of investigation as to the depth of 
the Saudi role in 9/1 1 . ... No information relative to the named people in Sarasota was 
disclosed." 

The U.S. Justice Department, the lead agency that investigated the attacks, refused 
to comment, saying it will discuss only information already released. 

The Saudi residents then living at the stylish home, Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii and his wife 
Anoud, could not be reached, nor could the then owner of the house, Esam Ghazzawi, 
who is Anoud's father. The house was sold in 2003, records show. 



GRAHAM HAS QUESTIONS 

For Graham, who served as Florida's governor from 1979 to 1987, the connections 
between the hijackers and residents raise questions about whether other Saudi 
nationals in Florida knew of the impending attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people. 

The FBI investigation began the month after 9/1 1 when Larry Berberich, senior 
administrator and security officer of the gated community known as Prestancia, reported 
a bizarre event that took place two weeks before the hijackings of four passenger jets 
that originated in Boston, Newark and Washington. 

The couple, living with their small children at the three-bedroom home at 4224 
Escondito Circle, had left in a hurry in a white van, probably on Aug. 30. 

They abandoned three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler 
PT Cruiser, in the garage and driveway. 

After 9/1 1 , Berberich said he had "a gut feeling" the people at the home may have 
had something to do with the attacks, prompting the FBI's probe that would eventually 
link the hijackers to the house. 

As an advisor to the Sarasota County sheriff — Berberich was with the group that 
received President Bush during his aborted visit to a Sarasota school on the morning of 
9/1 1 . He alerted sheriff's deputies. 

Patrick Gallagher, one of the Saudis' neighbors, had become suspicious even 
earlier, and had fired off an email to the FBI on the day of the attacks. Gallagher said 
law enforcement officers arrived and began an investigation, with agents swarming 
"all over the place, in their blue jackets," he recalled. 

Jone Weist, president of the group that managed Prestancia, confirmed the arrival 
of the FBI, which requested copies of the Saudis' financial transactions involving the 
house. 

SIGNS OF A FAST EXIT 

Berberich and a senior counterterrorism agent said they were able to get into 
the abandoned house, ultimately finding "there was mail on the table, dirty diapers 
in one of the bathrooms ... all the toiletries still in place ... all their clothes hanging in the 
closet ... TVs ... opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house ... the pool 
running, with toys in it." 




Inside the home at 4224 Escondito Circle 



"The beds were made ... fruit on the counter ... the refrigerator full of food. ... It was 
like they went grocery shopping. Like they went out to a movie ... [But] the safe was 
open in the master bedroom, with nothing in it, not a paper clip. ... A computer was still 
there. A computer plug in another room, and the line still there. Looked like they'd 
taken [another] computer and left the cord." 

The counterterrorism officer, who requested his name not be disclosed, said agents 
went on to make troubling discoveries: Phone records and the Prestancia gate records 
linked the house on Escondito Circle to the hijackers. 

In addition, three of the four future hijackers had lived in Venice — just 1 miles 
from the house — for much of the year before 9/1 1 . 

Atta, the leader, and his companion Marwan al-Shehhi, had been learning to fly 
small airplanes at Huffman Aviation, a flight school on the edge of the runway at Venice 
Municipal Airport. 

A block away, at Florida Flight Training, accomplice Ziad Jarrah was also 
taking flying lessons. All three obtained their pilot licenses and afterwards, in the months 
that led to 9/1 1 , spent much of their time traveling the state, including stints in 
Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach, among other areas. 

The counterterrorism agent said records of incoming and outgoing calls made at the 
Escondito house were obtained from the phone company under subpoena. 

Agents were able to conduct a link analysis, a system of tracking calls based 
on dates, times and length of conversations — finding the Escondito calls dating 
back more than a year, "lined up with the known suspects." 

The links were not only to Atta and his hijack pilots, the agent said, but to 1 1 
other terrorist suspects, including Walid al-Shehhri, one of the men who flew with Atta 
on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center. 

Another was Adnan Shukrijumah, a former Miramar resident identified as having 
been with Atta in the spring of 2001 . Shukrijumah is still at large and is on the FBI's 
Most Wanted list. 

But it was the gate records at the Prestancia development that produced the most 
telltale information. 

People who arrived by car had to give their names and the home's address 
they were visiting. Gate staff would sometimes ask to see a driver's license and note the 
name, said Berberich. 



LICENSE PLATES PHOTOGRAPHED 

More importantly, he added, the license plates of cars pulling through the gate were 
photographed. 

Atta is known to have used variations of his name, but the license plate of the car 



he owned was on record. 






»*« MaHMW* A.T1A 







Ii"i <»n.!« li».ir" ESI!* 







The vehicle and name information on Atta and Jarrah fit that of drivers entering 
Prestancia on their way to visit the home at 4224 Escondito Circle, said Berberich and 
the counterterrorism officer. 

Sarasota County property records identify the owners of the house at the time 
as Ghazzawi and his American-born wife Deborah, both with a post office box in al- 
Khobar, Saudi Arabia, and another address in the capital, Riyadh. 

Ghazzawi was described as a middle-aged financier and interior designer, 
the owner of many properties, including several in the United States, said 
the counterterrorism agent. 

While Ghazzawi visited the house, the people living there were his daughter Anoud 
and her husband al-Hiijjii, who appeared to be in his 30s and once identified himself as 
a college student, said Berberich, who met the son-in-law. 

The couple's sudden departure two weeks before 9/1 1 was tracked in detail by the 
FBI after the attacks, the counterterrorism agent said. 

First, they traveled to a Ghazzawi property in Arlington, Va., then — with Esam 
Ghazzawi — via Dulles airport and London's Heathrow, to Riyadh. 

The counterterrorism agent said Ghazzawi and al-Hiijjii had been on a watch list at 
the FBI and that a U.S. agency involved in tracking terrorist funds was interested in both 
men even before 9/1 1 . 

"464 was Ghazzawi's number," the officer said. "I don't remember the other man's 
number." 

About a year after the family abandoned the home, the FBI made an attempt to lure 
the owner back. 

Scott McKay, a Sarasota lawyer for the Prestancia homeowners' association in its 
claim for unpaid dues on the property, said the FBI tried to get him to bring the Saudis 
back for the transaction. 

"They didn't say you must do this. It was more like, 'But we'd really, really like you to 
make this happen,'" said McKay said. 

McKay said he tried to get the Ghazzawis to sign the necessary documents 
in person, but the ploy failed because the documents could legally be signed elsewhere 
using a notary. Records show Ghazzawi's signature was notarized by the vice consul of 
the U.S. embassy in Lebanon in September 2003. Deborah Ghazzawi's signature was 
notarized in Riverside County, Calif. 

CONGRESSIONAL INQUIRY KEPT IN DARK 




Former Florida U.S. Senator Bob Graham 



During an interview on Sunday, Graham said he was surprised he wasn't told about 
the probe when he was co-chair of Congress' Joint Inquiry into 9/1 1 — even though he 
was especially alert to terrorist information relating to Florida. 

"At the beginning of the investigation," he said, "each of the intelligence 
agencies, including the FBI, was asked to provide all information that agency possessed 
in relation to 9/1 1 ." 

The fact that the FBI did not tell the Inquiry about the Florida discoveries, 
Graham says, is similar to the agency's failure to provide information linking members 
of the 9/1 1 terrorist team to other Saudis in California until congressional 
investigators discovered it themselves. 

The Inquiry did nevertheless accumulate a "very large" file on the hijackers in the 
United States, and later turned it over to the 9/1 1 Commission. "They did very little with 
it," Graham said, "and their reference to Saudi Arabia is almost cryptic sometimes. ... I 
never got a good answer as to why they did not pursue that." 

The final 28-page section of the Inquiry's report, which deals with "sources 
of foreign support for some of the Sept. 1 1 hijackers," was entirely blanked out. It 
was kept secret from the public on the orders of former President George W. Bush and 
is still withheld to this day, Graham said. 

This in spite of the fact that Graham and his Republican counterpart, U.S. 
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, both concluded the release of the pages would not 
endanger national security. 

The grounds for suppressing the material, Graham believes, were "protection of the 
Saudis from embarrassment, protection of the administration from political 
embarrassment ... some of the unknowns, some of the secrets of 9/1 1 ." 



Anthony Summers is co-author of The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/1 1 and Osama bin Laden, 
published last month by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House. Dan Christensen is the editor 
of the Broward Bulldog. 



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